A free throw and a 3-pointer, those are the shots Anthony Thompson took on Tuesday night as Holy Cross hosted Loyola-Maryland during the first round of the Patriot League tournament.
Thompson and the Crusaders would take an early lead and never look back, defeating the Greyhounds 62-45 and advance to the Patriot League tournament quarterfinals where they will face off against Bucknell on the road on Thursday night.
Thompson’s two attempts, which came an hour before Holy Cross tipped off, both rimmed out as he shot one-handed, and went unnoticed by most of the 526 fans in attendance. But for the 5-foot-10 sophomore guard, who has been sidelined since early February with a torn meniscus, they were the physical manifestation of just how badly he was itching to get back on the court.
Entering his final game, which came on Feb. 8 versus Bucknell, Thompson was a starter for Milan Brown’s squad, averaging roughly six points, two rebounds and two assists in nearly 24 minutes per game – numbers that were all greatly deflated from his freshman campaign due the injury, which he tried to gut through for most of the year.
Thompson had surgery on his shoulder in late February, and has been a sideline spectator ever since, a torturous prospect for the hyper-competitive Thompson, but one made a bit easier by the support of his teammates.
“They’ve been really supportive, they tell me just to keep rehabbing, when I get back it’ll be my time to lead the team to a championship in my next two years,” he said, talking about how the seniors have encouraged him.
Thompson suffered the injury originally before the start of the season, and could have preserved an entire year of eligibility by red-shirting, but he chose instead to try to gut it out all year long.
“I had to play through it, just for my teammates and for myself,” said Thompson. “It’s been more of a mental thing to have that injury the whole year, and come back from it each time.”
Playing through the pain wasn’t easy on Thompson, but spending the final month of the season sitting out has been even harder.
“It was the hardest when I wouldn’t have breaks in between games, going back to back days and having that injury nagging me,” said Thompson. “I just had to focus and not really think about it as much.
“I’ve never had an injury where I’ve had to have surgery, this is my first major injury,” he said.
Unable to make an impact on the court, Thompson has tried to follow the examples set in practices, the locker room and from the sidelines set by Malcolm Miller and Justin Burrell, seniors who are also two of the team’s most vocal leaders.
“I’ve just been trying to be really vocal and help my team out wherever I see fit,” he said. “If I see my energy level isn’t there, or I see something wrong, I’ll just step in and say something instead of watching and letting it go.
“You can really tell that it’s coming down to the end for them,” he said. “They’re really being vocal; you can tell they really want it. They’re giving off a good vibe to the younger guys, and for me watching it’s nice to see the older guys stepping up at the end of the season.”
To help the team even more, Thompson has been making sure that his replacement, senior walk-on De’Vaughn Reid is good to go in his stead.
“I just tell him to be confident, go out there and play his game,” said Thompson. “He’s a really good player when he’s playing his game, but when he’s tentative and not playing his game, it makes it hard for him and it hurts the team so I just tell him to be confident.”
And while Thompson may not be able to contribute to his team’s championship run on the stat sheet, his view from the bench leaves him thinking he and the Crusaders have a shot.
“Watching our energy level, when we come out for pregame and how focused we are,” he said. “You can tell how focused we are and how it translates to the game.”